Whether traveling for business or pleasure, across the country or across the globe, no one is exempt from the toils of travel. Even a short flight can leave us feeling out of sorts, carrying with it a wide variety of traveler’s symptoms – apparently not everything stays in Vegas.
Thousands of years ago Ayurveda described one of the fundamental causes of disease: deterioration due to time and motion (called parinama). Biological time, the rate at which our cells age, either speeds up or slows down in relation to the pace of our body and our mind. There is no denying that modern-day travel not only speeds up the rate at which we physically move (and yes, sitting still while in a moving plane, train or automobile counts), but planning, coordinating and executing our trips can also get our minds racing.
So what are the effects of all of this motion and commotion? How does this accelerated rate of physical and mental movement cause dis-ease? Traveler, meet vata. Vata, the biological force of movement composed of the ether and air elements, is an energizing and inspiring force in nature governing every physical and mental process. In excess, this energy is degenerating and destructive.
Movement increases vata and vata increases movement, the effects of which are an increase in the qualities of dryness, lightness, coldness and ultimately deterioration. As a result, common symptoms of excess vata that can occur during travel include:
- irregular digestion
- lowered immunity
Thankfully the plant kingdom offers some very simple and effective herbal remedies. When taken as tea, these herbs provide a quick and convenient way to address acute travel symptoms. They can be purchased at your local health food store, from a practitioner, Yoga studio or online and infused with hot water to be enjoyed on a plane, in a hotel or at a restaurant.(Before enjoying these and any herbs for regular or long-term use, while taking medication or during pregnancy, consult with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.)
Digestion: (Ginger Root; Zingiber officinale. Adraka-fresh, Sunthi-dry) Travel may cause you to skip meals, eat at irregular times or take foods that you are not accustomed to eating and digesting well. This can increase vata and create irregularity in digestive strength. The effects of irregular digestion include gas, bloating, belching and/or lethargy after eating. One of the best herbal teas for supporting digestion is ginger. Ginger warms the digestive system, improves digestive strength and increases digestive enzyme secretion. If you are prone to motion sickness, ginger is a salutary remedy for this as well!
Dehydration: (Licorice Root; Glycyrrhiza glabra; Yashti Madhu) If you’ve ever arrived at your final destination feeling more like a raisin than a grape, then you’re familiar with the effects of systemic vata increase. Dry skin, lips, eyes and even sinuses are common effects of travel dehydration. Licorice root tea is an excellent choice for hydration. It acts as a demulcent, nourishing the skin and mucous membranes from the inside out, and is effective in retaining water within the body when rehydration is desired.
Constipation: (Psyllium Husk; Plantago ovata; Sat Isabgol) An erratic schedule, irregular mealtimes, convenience foods and dehydration can all contribute to constipation while traveling. If you notice that you skip bowel movements for a few days during travel, use psyllium husk tea to help decrease vata in the colon and get your bowel movements back on track. The soluble and insoluble fibers it contains provide the moistness and bulk the intestines need to get moving again. When looking for psyllium husk, it is important to buy organically grown, as the non-organically grown varieties can be especially toxic.
Lowered Immunity: (Holy Basil; Ocimum sanctum; Tulsi) The stress of travel, exposure to new people and places, and lack of rest can quickly challenge the immune system. You may experience sinus congestion, a respiratory cold or allergies – all signs of compromised defense mechanisms. Tulsi, or holy basil, is an excellent tea to protect and restore the integrity of the immune system and relieve respiratory illness. As an adaptogenic herb, it helps increase the body’s resistance to physical, environmental and emotional stress.
Insomnia: (Roman Chamomile; Anthemis nobilis; German Chamomile; Matricaria chamomilla) Crossing multiple time zones, shifts in sleep and wake times and emotional restlessness or anxiety can disturb our delicate internal biorhythms. This can create difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep and can also cause an increase in fatigue and unrest from waking in the pre-dawn hours. Chamomile tea reduces restlessness by calming the nervous system and promoting a sound night’s sleep. Its mild pain-relieving and muscle-relaxing properties can also offset any residual tension and strain from travel.
Being mindful to reduce the factors that can cause typical travel symptoms is your best defense. As part of your prevention or rebalancing strategy, these natural herbal teas can act as your most reliable travel partner. So the next time you venture off, be sure to pack a few herbal teas along with your itinerary. And amidst your travels, follow Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom and schedule some time, however brief, to slow down and enjoy a cup of herbal tea.
Mary-Alice Quinn, CAS is dedicated to spreading the practical benefits of living an Ayurvedic life. She conducts her private practice in Los Angeles and is an instructor for the California College of Ayurveda. MaryAliceQuinn.com
Sources For Tea
|Pukka Herbs can be purchased at stores in Southern California or online through Banyan Botanicals. For a 15% discount off of Banyan Botanicals orders through May 31, use the coupon code: LAYD41. Both Banyan Botanicals and Pukka Herbs support organic, sustainable farming and engage in ethical partnerships with small farmers.
|Zhena’s Gypsy Tea is a creative company whose roots grow in Ojai, California and whose proprietor, Zhena, draws on her gypsy heritage for organic and/or biodynamic tea blends. Find them in reusable tins in shops or online:gypsytea.com.
|San Francisco Herb and Natural Food Company ethically sources their medicianl herbs and offers bulk herbs for steeping as well as tea bags that are made without chlorine or staples so they can be easily added to enrich a compost pile after use. Find them online at:herbspicetea.com.
|Yogi Tea can be purchased at health food stores, grocery stores or online at: yogiproducts.com. The company was inspired by the teachings of Yogi Bhajan who promoted the philosophies of Yoga and Ayurveda and provided many traditional recipes.
• Yogi Tea Egyptian Licorice
• Yogi Tea Ginger
|Organic India specialized in tulsi teas sourced from sustainable farms. They can be purchased at stores or online: organicindia.com.
|Traditional Medicinals incorporates sustainability from how the organic and/or biodynamic teas are grown to the use of recycled paper and solar power. The boxes of tea can be found at your local market or online at:
(Steep the tea in your Libre Tea mug with reusable and removable tea strainer. Mention LA YOGA when you order a mug and receive a 20% discount: libretea.com. Code: LAYOGAMAY)
Many of the challenging effects of travel can be quickly alleviated or amplified by the choices we make before, during and after our trip. One example is coffee intake, which when used excessively while traveling can exacerbate typical symptoms like dehydration, constipation and insomnia. On the other hand, substituting herbal tea for coffee can significantly reduce the length and severity of these travel symptoms.
If substituting herbal tea for coffee is too far of a leap (before you have even left!), then you may try Teeccino, an herbal coffee alternative. Made from carob, chicory, barley and a variety of other spices depending on the flavor, Teeccino provides all of the hearty, satisfying qualities of coffee without its stimulating, acidic and drying effects. In fact, the energy boost you may receive from Teeccino is from the naturally occurring nutrients of the high-quality ingredients, not from caffeine, and it not only helps reduce acidity, it contributes to restoring the body’s alkaline balance. Helpful for the convenience of travel, Teeccino is now available in one-serving tea bags – another way to travel with ease, using herbal coffee and teas! Teeccino.com.
By Mary-Alice Quinn, CAS